Are your ears ringing? It can be quite a miserable symptom for some people.
Recently, I attended the 2016 Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association, which is a forum for the leading researchers in my profession to present their most recent findings to clinicians from across the country.
After a very interesting Vestibular Rehabilitation Lecture that was presented by one of the leading vestibular researchers in the world, I bravely stepped up to the microphone in front of hundreds of my physical therapy colleagues, to make the following humble confession and ask this important question:
“I have a private practice in San Diego, California, and I have made dizziness, vertigo, imbalance and fall prevention the absolute focus of my career for the last ten years. At this point, I only accept patients with those complaints since that is my total focus. However, when I have a patient complaining of tinnitus [ringing in one or both ears], I feel very inadequate.
Currently, I review their medication list for the presence of certain drugs that are known to have a side effect of tinnitus and I advise them to talk to their doctor. I also refer to other skilled providers for evaluation and treatment of their temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and upper cervical spine. But other than that, I feel that I don’t have a lot to offer. Am I missing something?”
The answer I received reassured me that I was indeed not missing any evidence-based treatment techniques that are available to physical therapists today.
The first part of the response stated if the patient is suicidal as a result of the ears ringing persistently, then emergency psychiatric care is required. I was already aware of that as I have tragically come across that situation a few times and I have historically made referrals for emergency psychiatric care.
One additional suggestion that I received from the presenter was to advise patients to use a “white noise machine” or listen to soft radio music to drown out the ears ringing in order to fall asleep at night. I made a note of that recommendation but I have not had any new patients complaining of ringing in their ears since that conference.
However, at a recent community meeting of the San Diego Fall Prevention Task Force, I was fortunate to hear an educational talk presented by a hearing aide specialist. In his talk, he discussed different causes of ringing in the ears and options for treatment.
I learned of a new technology in hearing aides, called “Tinnitus Therapy,” which has been developed to match and digitally cancel out the ringing that the patient hears in their ears.
Although I have not yet had a patient to refer for these new hearing aides, I plan to make that referral for anyone I encounter who is complaining of ringing in the ears.
I believe this important information may benefit anyone who is suffering with ringing in their ears. Although I don’t personally have a lot to offer my patients for ringing in the ears, I am always pleased to make referrals to competent providers who offer services that benefit my patient population.
My goal is to reduce the suffering of my patients and empower them to live again!
For more information about Tinnitus Therapy to reduce or eliminate ringing in the ears, visit myhearingcenters.com.